Memorial Day Weekend Seen As ‘Stress Test' for COVID Spread Under Higher Vaccination Rates

Pandemic history has shown COVID-19 cases spike in the days and weeks following a holiday, and the reopening of California is roughly two weeks after Memorial Day weekend

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Maskless fun and excitement abounded over the Memorial Day Weekend in San Diego County. There was a sense of normalcy from the beaches to the first stadium concerts in months at Petco Park.

While rasta vibrations were in effect, the full impact of the holiday weekend's gatherings are weeks away, according to doctors David Pride and Paul Schalch Lepe.

“You have exposure. And then about two weeks later, when you start seeing the spike in cases two weeks after, that is when unfortunately we start seeing the more severe cases that lead to hospitalizations,” explained Lepe, a San Diego-based otolaryngologist.

Coincidentally, two weeks from Memorial Day weekend is right around June 15, the time Governor Gavin Newsom is planning for California’s full-scale reopening.

Pride, M.D., Ph.D. is an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego. Pride said while he doesn’t expect the numbers to explode as they did during previous vacation periods, there is one thing to keep in mind.

"Right now, we're functioning at a baseline of about 20,000 cases per day as a country. So that's actually quite a bit of COVID. And I know that it's a lot less COVID than we've had in the past, so a lot of us feel good about it, but when you think about 20,000 cases a day, that's still quite a bit of COVID," Pride explained. "Meaning that there is enough of the virus out there circulating to infect more and more people."

Both doctors said the state and county vaccination rates should help keep infections much lower than incubation periods following previous holiday weekends, especially since San Diego County is closing in on its vaccination goals.

But there's still room for caution, according to a new report posted to the Journal of American Medical Association.

Based on simulated spread in North Carolina, it notes that without social distancing, school closings, and masking -- and even with most people vaccinated -- there could be a substantial increase in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

In San Diego County, as the state moves to reopen June 15, continuing to mask up is an issue filled with mixed emotions.

"I’m a retired nurse and I'm familiar with the whole wearing the mask thing. But it's just getting to be tedious and it's just uncomfortable," local Kathy Rowell told NBC 7.

"I'll pick and choose my battles where the mask is needed, for my own personal health," San Diegan Richet Golston added.

As California inches towards reopening, Lepe said mask wearing, hand washing and other pandemic precautions should be incorporated into our lives, but not to the extreme we’ve had to previously.

“Look at the cases of the flu, for example. You know, we have like record low cases of the flu, record low of other respiratory infections precisely because we were just following these very simple measures of distancing, hygiene and mask-wearing," he added.

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